I enjoyed Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, even as I shrank from its outrageous contrivance. Few people eat McDonald's the way he did for that movie, so its conclusions seemed somewhat specious, though the film landed some heavy blows in the larded midriff of the fast-food industry's cynical marketing.
That Sugar Film unabashedly employs the same approach to another foodstuff with a critical difference that makes it a more honest and, finally, a much better film. We don't all eat McDonald's for every meal, upsizing when offered the chance, but the average Australian (and doubtless New Zealander) downs 40 teaspoons of the stuff every day.
The film's maker and star, the extremely personable Damon Gameau, better known as an actor (Underbelly, The Tracker, Balibo), embarks on a two-month campaign to eat those 40 daily teaspoons, but the hook is that he does so only by eating notionally healthy foods. Chocolate, ice-cream, fizzy drinks are out; yoghurt, muesli bars, apple juice are in.
Even those already suspicious of a liquid breakfast cereal in a tetrapak may be stunned to learn it contains only slightly less sugar than a can of Coke, which is itself no richer in the sweet stuff than that can of pure apple juice. And 80 per cent of the food in the supermarket contains sugar.
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Like Spurlock, Gameau has the benefit of specialist advice from (slightly horrified) physicians and nutritionists as the diet takes its toll: he gained about half a kilo a day; developed the symptoms of fatty liver disease; became prone to violent mood swings; and started to show the signs of coronary artery disease. In a month.
At times, the film comes at you like a sugar rush: colourful, busy graphics that illustrate the body's internal processes have the feel of a children's film and there are jarring changes of pace and tone that, perhaps deliberately, reflect the subject's addled state.
But in quiet patches - a remote aboriginal community ravaged by sugar-rich diets or in the Appalachians where a dentist works pro bono pulling all the teeth of teenagers - the film gently underlines the political and class subtext of its story.
This is an important film that deserves a much wider audience than it will probably get but once seen, its central message - that not all calories are created equal - is not easily forgotten. It will change the way you read food labels and detain your trolley in the produce aisle where it's safest.
Director: Damon Gameau
Running time: 97 mins
Rating: PG (nudity and coarse language)
Verdict: Bittersweet in the extreme.